Review: Lauren Adams -Somewhere Else

 

By Devon “Doc Wendell

 

The genre designated as Americana encompasses a lot. Country, bluegrass, folk, blues, and good old fashioned rock n’ roll. Lauren Adams has been a veteran of the Los Angeles Americana music scene for many decades. She’s a stellar singer, guitarist and prolific songwriter.

LAUREN ADAMS

Adams’ new CD Somewhere Else rivals the greatest works by Emmylou Harris and Bob Dylan. Songs like “It Takes What It Takes”, the title track, “Miss You”, “Between Me And You” and “Heavy, Heavy Heart” are soulful ballads that deal with sorrow, longing, and most of all, spiritual growth.  Adams has a firm grip on reality and the struggles of love, dreams and the ability to keep moving forward despite the greatest of obstacles.

 

The music on Somewhere Else has a unique country/folk feel to it.  The backup band is superior, many of whom have been playing with Adams for many years such as guitarist Nick Kirgo (who co-engineered and mixed the album), the legendary Mark “Pocket” Goldberg on bass along with David Sutton, Hank Van Sickle and Dave Beyer, Debra Dobkin, drums and percussion. David Fraser and Tom Heimer appear on piano with Fraser also on accordion, Lynn Coulter and McCoy Kirgo on drums and vocals and tamborine, Luke Halpin, Mandolin and violin, Gary Stockdale, background vocals, and Grady Kinnoin, pedal steel guitar.

 

Adams has a warm sense of humor which is apparent on “Henry (From Saginaw Michigan)” Adams is a true story teller, which is something that’s missing from most musical genres today. Even the older “legends” have fallen back on familiar clichés or trying to tackle Sinatra but Adams has the key to that forever song, which is a rare gift. Her voice is tender and poignant and it’s obvious that these musicians have been playing together for a long time.

LADAMS

‘The Shoe Fits” and “Oh Marie” are real country tunes with no pop gimmicks. The recording is clean and clear. It’s refreshing to hear the real thing. Adams is no stranger to this music. At a time in which even Nashville is calling out for actual good old fashioned country music, Lauren Adams could be the music’s savior. I love that Nick Kirgo and Adams recorded this album as purely as possible.

“We Try Harder” is a rollicking, no-nonsense country rocker. Adams shares the lead vocal spot with Lynn Coulter. This is the kind of music Bonnie Raitt should be playing.

“Bayview Drive” is a sweet and sincere lullaby and one of the album’s many highlights with some truly skillful and inspirational guitar picking by Adams. The lyrics on “National Cheer Up The Lonely Day” are cynical and biting and the music is warm and soulful; the perfect dichotomy.  Any songwriter will wish they had penned this country classic. The album closes with John Anderson’s menacing “Seminole Wind.” The imagery is original, stark and beautiful and Adam’s vocals are perfect.

 

“Somewhere Else” is the most powerful statement in Americana music that I’ve heard in many decades. Adams is a poet and a master musician to be reckoned with. This recording is bound to make her a household name and kick open many doors. If you’re wondering what happened to true All-American country and folk music, look no further.

 

 

CD Review: Winston Byrd: Once Upon A Time Called Now (Ropeadope Records)

 

By Devon “Doc” Wendell

 

It’s not always easy for a jazz instrumentalist to truly demonstrate their versatility on a recording project. Jazz musicians often get pigeon-hold into sticking with one style and that’s what the people end up expecting throughout their career. Trumpet master, composer and arranger Winston Byrd’s debut on Ropeadope Records titled Once Upon A Time Called Now is as eclectic as you can get. It’s also relentlessly soulful, swinging, funky and a true labor of love for Byrd and his giant cast of phenomenal musicians accompanying him on this glorious project. Once Upon A Time Called Right Now was produced by Winston Byrd and Giovanni Washington Wright.

The album kicks off with the funkiest rendition of Ornette Coleman’s “Ramblin” that you’ll ever hear. This isn’t some cliche jazz-fusion funk. This is the real deal. Taiki Tsuyama’s slap bass is reminiscent of Paul Jackson’s masterful bass lines on all of those classic Herbie Hancock & The Headhunters albums with a dash of Bootsy Collins thrown in for good measure. Winston Byrd plays some of the filthiest psychedelic trumpet lines ever laid down. His use of electronic effects is tasteful an innovative. The horn arrangements are tight and burning.

Byrd’s lyricism on Andrew Lloyd Weber/Tim Rice’s “On This Night Of A Thousand Stars” is breathtaking. Here the listener gets to experience Byrd’s more traditional big-band jazz side. The same is true on Frank Loesser’s ” Brotherhood Of Man. On this piece Byrd engages in a fantastic trumpet duel with George Rabbai.  Snooky Young, Dizzy Gillespie and Roy Eldridge are definitely prevalent influences in Byrd’s playing but Byrd’s own distinct style and personality really shine through clearly on these pieces and throughout this entire album. Winston Byrd’s playing is so dynamic and imaginative. He doesn’t play in one style and has more than just one tone; not an east feat for a trumpet player.

Winston Byrd Pic

 

Brian O’ Rourke’s Fender Rhodes keyboard comping sets the mood on Eric Otis’ “Grandma Jo’s House.” Byrd’s syncopated and fluid muted trumpet lines paint many pictures with an endless array of colors and textures. This is the work of a true master who has done his homework, paid his dues and then some. Fritz Wise’s drumming is subtle and perfect.

Nick Rolfe’s “Borrowed Time” is delicate in its funkiness and thick in its rhythmic layering. This piece has a slight smooth-jazz groove but it breaks away from that and takes on a life of its own. The listener is taken on a most rewarding journey. Byrd’s Flugelhorn playing swings harder than life itself.

There have been many renditions of Dave Brubeck’s “Blue Rondo A La Turk” but the one on this album defies categorization. Yes, it’s jazz and yes, there are traditional components to the music but Byrd and his band explore every possibility of every chord change, harmonic structure and nuance. Byrd plays the piccolo trumpet and trombone here as well. Brubeck would have been more than proud of this phenomenal reading of one of his all-time classics.

Byrd’s mournful, vocal-like lines on Eugene Frisen’s “Anne Rising” will bring tears to your eyes. Steve Rawlin’s tender piano accompaniment is haunting and precise.

It’s just natural for Byrd to tackle Clark Terry’s “Mumbles.”  Byrd scat sings along with George Rabbai and the results are hilarious. The true spirit and humor of Clark Terry is captured perfectly.

Winston Byrd and Giovanni Washington-Wright’s original “Times” is part rock, part blues, with elements of jazz and fusion. The amazing Julian Coryell (son of Larry Coryell) sets things on fire with his blistering electric guitar solo. Winston Byrd takes the baton and tears it up without ever straying from the composition’s theme.

The other original by Byrd and Wright “Brown Eyes” is this R&B flavored lullaby with great piano work by Mark Zier. Byrd’s tone is so thick, rich and beautiful. Byrd also plays trombone, bass trombone and flugelhorn on this piece, harmonizing with himself.

The album ends on a funky note with Asa & Airreal Watkins/Adrian “Bobby” Battle’s “One Life, One Love.” This pop exploration is more proof of how versatile Winston Byrd’s tastes and skills are.

Winston Byrd’s Once Upon A Time Called Now is surely going to kick down some doors for this incredible trumpeter. I expect Winston Byrd to become a household name just as Kamasi Washington’s has in the ‘mainstream world.” Not only do you have some of the finest trumpet playing you’ll hear on the scene today, Once Upon A Time Called Now also takes you to the heart of a musician’s love for many different styles and musical genres. This is a classic for all tastes and ages. Do not miss out on this one.

Happy Birthday, George Clinton

 

By Devon “Doc” Wendell

 

July 22, 2016 may be the 75th birthday of George “Dr. Funkenstein” Clinton but the good doctor shows now signs of getting old and slowing down. He’s still out there touring with Parliament/Funkadelic, spreading funk all over the World. No one has done more for the genre of funk than George Clinton. Who else could have taken tipsy doo-wop vocal arrangements and fused them with psychedelic rock, groundbreaking electronic dance music, gospel, blues and just about any style you can think of and made it into something so timeless and irresistible? George has this ability of putting together musicians you never would have dreamed would have been able to work together much less be in the same room with one another and it always results in something magical.

George Clinton Pic

George’s concepts have always been silly and serious at the same time. Parliament’s 1978 classic The Motor Booty Affair addresses the realities of black life in America disguised as an underwater funk opera. The music is gloriously filthy and lively but the message is deeper than deep and that’s just one of hundreds of examples. Can anyone actually feel bad and judgmental when listening to Funkadelic’s “(Not Just) Knee Deep” or One Nation Under A Groove in its entirety?  I wouldn’t believe in a million years that it would be possible and you will find yourself shaking your ass in the process. P-Funk unifies people like no other music in the galaxy.

In high school, I was introduced to P-Funk and have been a hardcore funkateer ever since. I have every album by Parliament, Funkadelic, Bootsy’s Rubber Band, Parlet, Brides Of Funkentein, Eddie Hazel, Bernie Worrell, and The P-Funk Allstars ever released and then some. George Clinton’s influence gave birth to hip-hop. No artists in history has been sampled more and try to imagine how many rock bands who have used Funkadelic’s Maggot Brain and Standing On The Verge Of Getting It On as blue prints for their sound. You hear the influence of P-Funk everywhere. Parliament’s Mothership Connection and Funkentelechy Vs. The Placebo Syndrome transformed dance music forever. They are both essential albums for any collection like John Coltrane’s Giant Steps, Jimi Hendrix’s Band Of Gypsys, Miles Davis’s Kind Of Blue, and Sgt. Pepper by The Beatles.

Like Miles Davis, George refuses to become an “old relic.” He’s worked and continues to work with the most popular and innovative artists in hip-hop. George even won a Grammy for his contributions to Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly this past year. There would be no Prince or The Red Hot Chili Peppers without George Clinton. George will always be out there with the youth of the World, bringing funk into the cutting edge as he’s always done.

Of course, George didn’t do it alone. The mothership is filled with essential musical contributors that make up The Parliafunkadelicment Thang such as Bernie Worrell, William “Bootsy” Collins, Garry Shider, Eddie Hazel, Billy “Bass” Nelson, Tiki Fullwood, Mallia Franklin, Michael Hampton, Walter “Junie” Morrison, Cordell “Boogie” Mosson, Tyrone Lampkin, Rodney “Skeet” Curtis,  Ray Davis, Clarence “Fuzzy” Haskins, Grady Thomas, Glenn Goins, Fred Wesley, Maceo Parker, Rick Gardner, Richard “Kush” Griffith,  Gary “Mudbone” Cooper, Jerome “Big Foot” Brailey, Dawn Silva, Lynn Mabry, Ron Ford, Ron Dunbar, Frankie “Kash” Waddy, Dewayne “Blackbyrd” McKnight, Belita Woods  Michael “Clip” Payne, Sheila Brody, Danny Bedrosian, Jerome Rodgers, Jeff Bunn, Lige Curry, Kendra Foster, Garrett Shider, Greg Thomas, Benny Cowan, Greg Boyer, Benzel Cowan and many, many more.

Happy Birthday, George Clinton and please keep serving up your one of a kind, uncut funk; the planet needs it now more than ever.

 

 

Eric B. & Rakim: Paid In Full Revisited

 

By Devon “Doc” Wendell

 

So I was born it 1975, so that makes me a “Gen- Xer”. Growing up was hard on us X-ers. The generation before ours made up of old, whiny hippies who constantly told us what music to listen to and what music not to listen to. And so it was basically The Beatles,The Stones, The Byrds, Country Joe & The Fish and a lot of music that just did not speak to my generation or surroundings. The Vietnam war was long over by the time I was in grade school and “peace and love” had run right into Wall Street by the ’80s and “Greed was good.”

This new music called “rap” or “hip-hop” was a no- no. For years I tried to figure out where the disdain towards this exciting new music came from. It wasn’t until I started working in the music industry professionally in high-school that I found out why the old rockers and folkers of my parent’s generation were so set against it. In a nutshell, hip-hop started organically and could never successfully be co-opted by the greedy, anglo, cocaine- fueled rock n’ roll industry and so they tried to destroy it. The thing is, the more my generation was told to “stay away” from hip-hop, the more we got into it because “no” is the greatest sales pitch of all.

Eric B.

 

I hung out with musicians all of my life, even as a kid and we listened to everything from Skip James, Sun Ra, Jimi Hendrix, Parliament/Funkadelic, and Johnny Cash, to Miles Davis, Monk, Charles Ives, Gil Scott Herron, and hip-hop. We were way more open than the boomers before us. We had to be or music would have ceased to exist after 1976.

When Eric B. & Rakim hit with their debut album Paid In Full, it changed my perception of music.They were all about their craft, period. You didn’t see them at Lakers games on TV or hanging out with movie stars. Rakim was and will always be the greatest emcee in the World. When I first listened to Paid In Full, Rakim’s rhyming abilities were akin to the way John Coltrane played the tenor and soprano saxophones. And Eric B.’s DJing skills were raw, honest, and funky as hell. It wasn’t overproduced and not a lot of PR went into it. It was one guy with a microphone and another with a turntable and they could do more with just those two things than most so-called “real musicians” could do on their instruments. The album was recorded at Marley Marl’s home studio, Power Play in New York City.

Rakim’s vocals were hard and his phrasing was so bad. It was fucking perfect and swinging. Just listen to “I Ain’t No Joke”, “Move The Crowd”, “I Know You Got Soul” and the title track and you’ll feel what the real, pre-gentrified New York was like. I hear Eric B. scratching over The J.B.’s “Pass The Peas” on “I Ain’t No Joke” and I can smell the 6 train going uptown or taste a Papaya King hot dog with extra sour kraut. It was a simpler, better time. You could actually be poor and middle class and not have to work a thousand god damn hours a week to barely scrape by. Paid In Full remains a powerful statement of black consciousness. It boasts, celebrates, and covers life as it is. There’s no fucked up PR campaign involving the Kardashians, but wait, I don’t want to come off sounding as close minded and selfishly nostalgic as my parent’s generation, so all I’ll say is, this is the real shit. No auto-tuning, just hip-hop for the sake of art and not fame, a “game changing” (I hate that fucking expression!) album for all generations who are open enough to receive it. I remember in 1993; George Clinton said to me “Rakim is like the Jimi Hendrix of the microphone”. So if you missed out on this now classic, go get it now and pass it on but don’t be a dick about it to the “youngsters.” (there I go again, shit) Just slip it to them with a copy of Kind Of Blue and see what happens.

 

 

 

How Bootsy Saved My Life

 

By Devon “Doc” Wendell

 

Once upon a time life was pretty bleak on my side of the globe. My teenage years were wrought with depression and anxiety problems that plagued my every move and altered my decision making. All I wanted out of life was to be a musician but I was wound way too tightly to make it out of the gate. The doctors gave me all kinds of pills and that only made my day to day existence more miserable. I played the blues on the guitar like someone three times my age because I felt the blues. Some kind of freaky, supernatural, extraterrestrial being needed to come along and shake things up and loosen me up. And one did. His name is William “Bootsy” Collins.

BOOTSY PIC

While in high school, a fellow musician laid it on me. He introduced me to the funkiest music I had ever experienced. This cat had a recording of a young Bootsy playing in James Brown’s band in the early ’70s. The energy was different than the pre-Bootsy Godfather Of Soul recordings I had already heard up to that point. This had a youthful energy that rivaled the power James Brown possessed which is saying a lot. Those bass lines on “Super Bad” and “Get Up I Feel Like Being A Sex Machine” leaped out of the speakers and made you shake your ass, whether you had ever shaken it before or not (I hadn’t.)

At that same time, this friend played me all of the Parliament/Funkadelic records featuring Bootsy not only playing bass, but composing, arranging, and playing both killer guitar and drums as well. Next, I was indoctrinated by the sounds of Bootsy’s Rubber Band, The Sweat Band, and all of Bootsy’s records from the ’70s, ’80s, up to that time which was 1990 . Bootsy didn’t sound like Larry Graham or James Jamerson. Some describe his tone as “liquid” “rubbery” or “elastic” but I describe it as sounding the way good sex feels. What could be better? Bootsy’s sense of syncopation and dynamics opened up an entirely new universe for bass players in all genres of music.

And so I immersed myself in all of these gloriously stanky records. I found every Bootsy recording I could get my hands on and went to see every Bootsy show in New York. Then something miraculous started to happen; the depression left me. No more thoughts of suicide or sleeping for days on in. The collective funk beauty of Bootsy, Phelps “Catfish” Collins, Frankie “Kash” Waddy, Gary “Mudbone” Cooper, Robert “P-Nut” Johnson, Joel “Razor Sharp-Sharp” Johnson, Maceo Parker, Fred Wesley, Richard “Kush” Griffith and Rick Gardner eased the pain and got this one time wallflower out dancing with pride and without a care in the world. It’s as if his music is designed to take you out of the darkness and give you a “little light under the sun.” I even went out and bought a bass and still get more work as a bass player than as a guitarist to this day, so I became a better musician too.

Of course I must also mention Dr. Funkenstein himself, George Clinton, The Woo Wizard Bernie Worrell, Garry Shider, Eddie Hazel, Michael Hampton, and all of the contributing P-Funkers who made funk music a lifestyle, culture and way of life with Bootsy as co-pilot of The Mothership. The #1 Funkateer on the planet. It’s impossible to feel unhappy or stressed out when you hear Bootsy play that signature Space Bass. Depression could have consumed me at a very early age and even taken my life but this is the true tale of how Bootsy saved my life. So as we near the 40th anniversary of the formation of Bootsy’s Rubber Band this summer, I must say thank you Bootsy and “ever funkin’ on!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Humor: The Top 15 Things More Popular Than A Jazz Piece

 

By Doc Wendell

 

Okay, so I’ve been a music journalist for a number of years now. It’s not news that if I wrote a piece on Beyonce’s “Lemonade”, I’d have tens of thousands of “hits” or “likes” on this site and on social media. But I’ve chosen to dedicate my time to the most disrespected and misunderstood art formed created in America; jazz. What can I say, I’m a die-hard jazz geek. I like supporting the underdogs too because I’ve learned that what’s most popular often lacks depth, substance and intellectual stimulation. With that being said, jazz posts are always an unpredictable hit or miss. I thought I’d explore some of the social media posts that are more popular than a jazz post. Since some arrogant, snide journalist will most likely respond with “Oh yeah, I get millions of “hits and “likes” on my jazz posts, Doc!”, I’ll reword that and say here’s a list of 15 things more popular than one of my jazz posts.

1) Pictures of boobs

2) Pictures of booty

3) A dishonest political post by the Donald Trump campaign

4) More pictures of boobs

5) A Dishonest political post by the Hillary Clinton campaign

6) More pictures of booty

7) A dishonest political post by the Bernie Sanders campaign (Yeah, I said it!)

8) A cute photo of your pet/pets

9) A photo of any type of food wrapped in ten miles of bacon

10) A condescending “What If I Told You?” meme with a picture of Laurence Fishburn in the Matrix spouting some overly paranoid conspiracy theories created by psychotics and stoners

11) A condescending “So let me get this straight” meme with a picture of Gene Wilder in Willie Wonka & The Chocolate Factory spouting some overly paranoid conspiracy theory created by psychotics and stoners.

12) Any post on weed, whether it be a picture of kush, how other drugs are more dangerous, or how many diseases it supposedly cures.

13) A post with pictures of weed, boobs, and booty all together (The American dream)

14) A condescending meme by baby boomers on how the rock/pop music of their generation was somehow “better” than that of any other.

15) A re-posting of a reality deprived, incoherent celebrity giving their two-cents on politics and other world issues while high on painkillers. 

 

 

Happy 90th Birthday, Miles Davis

By Devon “Doc” Wendell

 

When I think of what it takes to be the perfect musician, I think of Miles Davis. I first heard Miles when he played on all of those classic sides with Bird on the Dial label in the late ’40s. Nobody sounded like that. There was the fast freneticism of Dizzy Gillespie and the dynamic swing of Fats Navarro. Miles sounded like neither of these trumpet masters. His sound stood out. Bird was playing everything imaginable. Miles created this beautifully elegant contrasting style to what Bird was blowing. Sometimes Miles would play just a few notes with these huge spaces between them and a glorious syncopated swagger similar to the way Thelonious Monk played the piano but slicker and more romantic.

MILES DAVIS1

I was a budding young guitar player in high school when I first heard Miles and I had to own every album he ever recorded. It took a while to do so but I finally got them all. Those albums on Prestige in the early to mid ’50s were so extraordinary. Everyone played on those records. Thelonious Monk, Sonny Rollins, Milt Jackson, Lucky Thompson, Horace Silver, Percy Heath, Jackie McLean, Art Blakey, Kenny Clarke, Red Garland, John Coltrane, Bird, Paul Chambers, Art Taylor, J.J Johnson and Philly Joe Jones; Miles played with only the best because his music called for the best. Along with Art Blakey and Horace Silver, Miles helped sculpt the hard-bop genre which substituted the complex bebop chord changes with a more accessible blues and gospel-soul groove while maintaining the virtuosic soloing approach adopted from the bebop school.

MILESDAVIS2

Miles kept growing because he had to. Remaining stagnant and becoming some sort of “relic” went against everything he stood for. Miles’ recordings for Columbia records changed  music forever. With Kind Of Blue, Sketches Of Spain, Miles Ahead, and Porgy & Bess, he was able to get throngs of people who never considered buying jazz records paying close attention to the music for the very first time without compromising his artistic integrity. No one did that like Miles and no one will ever be able to do it like that ever again, not on that level.

Miles changed the way I approached phrasing on the guitar. He taught me to not throw out my entire technique in one over-indulgent solo. I could take my time, play fewer notes but notes that had more potency and vulnerability all at once. I hear the entire history of the blues in Miles’ trumpet lines.  Miles sang through his trumpet and would instantly establish a mood and could keep you there for as long as he wanted. Miles could capture a feeling of loneliness and longing that was painfully soulful and irresistible. It was hard for me to grasp this as a child but as an adult, it hits like a brick. It takes incredible courage to go to that place so freely. Some go there and don’t survive it. Miles faced those demons but was aware of them and fought them with every fiber of his being because there was always some new musical territory to explore.

Miles would have turned 90 years old on Thursday, May 26th, 2016 and I had to take the time to say thank you for music that will always be a part of my life and identity. And I thank you Miles for forcing me to push myself beyond my limited comfort zone and being the ultimate teacher. Let’s celebrate Miles’ music on his birthday and not his very human and often overly publicized flaws. There’s a lifetime of music to  choose from and no two Miles musical explorations sound remotely alike. Miles is more than just a jazz musician; he is forever. Happy Birthday, Miles.